Somewhere amidst the traumatized pasture animals; and Mr. Bean's reenactment of
He gave us a chance to celebrate protest and dissent.
Four years ago, after a comparable night on the other side of the globe, the rest of the world had a moment of collective sadness for the London organizers. No way could the stagers of the next Olympics possibly equal Beijing's lid-lifting spectacle. But tonight we learned that if the guy in front of you zigs, it's best to zag. Boyle, the Oscar-winning director of
This was pageantry as jiu-jitsu. While Britain's coalition government weighs further cuts to its government-run health-care system, Boyle went out of his way to honor the National Health Service, with real NHS employees as nurses capering on hospital beds.
The show also included a nod to the early-20th-century suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and the Jarrow Marchers, who in 1936 walked more than 300 miles from County Durham to London to protest hunger and joblessness. When Boyle made a point of inviting their descendants to the proceedings, he also made a point to us.
With The Queen in the house, we heard music from the Sex Pistols, the same band whose
On these isles of wonder, tumult is a good thing.
The Olympics, of course, have a long and troubling history with protest and dissent. The Games have mostly been hostile to them. Showing in other parts of London right now are two productions of a much more modest scale, each of which speaks to this. One is a documentary called
The other, a play called
Even today, you can't wear a Che Guevara or Jean-Marie Le Pen t-shirt into an Olympic venue. The sole instance in which the Olympic movement has stood up for protest and dissent was its shunning of South Africa's apartheid regime.
So all props to Boyle, the son of a boiler stoker and a school lunch lady, who lives in Tower Hamlets, one of the East London communities adjacent to the stadium where he let loose his colors and sounds on the world.
Somewhere in the cacophony of last night, during what might have been the world's largest Twitter storm, this nugget emerged:
To speak one's mind or assert one's rights is as irrepressible a human instinct as running or jumping. Of that, let us be not afeared.